Answer: Let's try to clear up the mystery. Since the buds form on old wood, pruning a Nikko Blue is an art. If it is pruned too hard, it won't bloom. Before pruning, look carefully at the base of the branches and make sure you recognize the nodes where leaves emerge from the stems. On hydrangeas, there will be two leaves emerging on opposite sides of the stem at each node. In the fall, after a killing frost, prune back the branches to just above the second or third node from the base of the plant. The best winter protection is to form a cage of chicken wire around the shrub in late October/early November and fill it with leaves or loose straw. This will help protect the plant from alternative freezing and thawing during the winter and early spring. After danger of a killing frost has passed in spring, remove the leaves or straw. The most common reason for a Nikko Blue hydrangea to fail to flower is winter kill from subzero temperatures, especially while it is young. Planting in a protected site and providing extra winter protection is important. In extremely cold winters or winters without adequate snow cover, Nikko might die back to the ground and produce only leaves the following growing season.
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